On the evening of 8 April 2021, police officers in Northern Ireland deployed water cannons to disperse a crowd of youths who had gathered on Springfield Road — a stronghold of Irish nationalists — in western Belfast, the capital. Approximately 100 youths gathered near an interface that separates Springfield Road from Shankill Road — a predominantly British loyalist area — from where some of them threw Molotov cocktails, rocks and other projectiles at the officers. While there were no reports of significant injuries due to the clashes on 8 April, the deputy police chief of Northern Ireland stated that a total of 55 police officers have been injured in the violence during the previous six nights since Good Friday. The unrest is occurring amid increasing tensions regarding trade restrictions between Northern Ireland and adjacent Ireland — a member of the EU — following the United Kingdom’s exit from the EU. Loyalist youths also resent the government’s decision not to prosecute 24 members of the Irish nationalist party Sinn Fein, who attended the June funeral of a former leader of the Irish Republican Army, violating the coronavirus-related ban on large gatherings.


Analyst Comment: Further violence is anticipated in Belfast and other areas of Northern Ireland during the upcoming weekend, as youths — mainly British loyalists — reportedly plan to organize a number of parades in multiple cities. The current conditions in Northern Ireland are more conducive to sustained unrest as the annual marching season , which started on 5 April, peaks in the lead-up to the Twelfth of July parades.